Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Future of the Narrative

I believe the future of narrative writing lies in the authoring of open ended stories with many diverging plot lines, possibly aided by advanced computer programs. This would allow for interactive, personalized television programs that are sort of a "choose your own adventure", except less overt.

If the viewer believes they recognize a threat the characters don't, they could yell at the TV (like I often do), and affect the plot of the show by providing information, misinformation, or persuasive moral guidance. The fourth wall wouldn't even have to be broken, a character could simply come to such realizations on their own at that time, the viewer acting as a subconscious or instinct.

Extremely basic versions of this could even be accomplished today, by using basic speech recognition at key moments when an attentive viewer might become frustrated and wish to impact the story. By writing open ended stories with diverging plot lines, it would allow for shows to automatically be subtly customized to the viewer's preferences without them realizing it.

For SciFi, this might mean that those who prefer shows about military conquest would lead the show in that direction, while those that prefer peaceful exploration and cooperation could lead the show in that direction. Eventually using digital actors in combination with real actors, characters could live or die based on the decisions the user makes -- much like in Mass Effect or Dragon Age.

This would even work for other genres, such as comedy, though perhaps in an even subtler manner. The show could listen for laughter and disgust, and tailor jokes accordingly. If multiple comedic punch lines and "throwaways" are written, an animated comedy could easily be "Family Guy" for one person, "South Park" for another, and "Archer" for yet another. The plot would remain the same, but the individual jokes could be slowly customized. This would allow for fewer entertainment programs, but all of a higher quality.

The delivery for this kind of programming is already in place. Using game consoles such as the Xbox 360 with Kinect, entertainment programs (literally a program), could have a small amount of logic pre-loaded, and the rest of the episode could be streamed, with the various clips assembled as dictated by the feedback received.

I believe the right team of people could demonstrate this kind of dynamic entertainment within a few months. Who will take the challenge? Someone make it possible for me to enjoy the perfect Science Fiction program... by making this "fiction" into fact.